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California Governor Visits Mexico to Strengthen Ties - 2001-12-04

California Governor Gray Davis is in Mexico City meeting with government and business leaders to strengthen commercial ties between his state and Mexico. The governor's principal goal is to ease the traffic jams at the border caused by the heightened security put in place after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

After meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox Monday, Governor Davis told reporters a memorandum of agreement had been signed between the California Department of Transportation and its Mexican counterpart. The agreement allows for the exchange of information about commercial vehicle drivers to facilitate the passage of trucks at the border.

In addition, the governor said he had obtained an agreement in principle with the Fox government to develop special, pre-assigned lanes for commercial traffic at the border.

"This is an example of our efforts to maintain high security, but also to encourage commerce. Mexico is California's largest trading partner and we want to continue good commerce on both sides of the border," the governor said.

Governor Davis said the details of this plan will have to be approved by the U.S. Customs Service as well as the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Both federal agencies have authority over border crossing procedures. Governor Davis said he has already had contact with those agencies over the plan and that final details will be worked out at meetings to be held in the Mexican border city of Tijuana and in the nearby California city of San Diego in January.

After Mr. Davis won the California governor's seat in the 1998 election, he promised to make better relations with Mexico a priority. Within the next year Mexico surpassed Japan as a customer for California goods and services and is now the state's largest trading partner. Mexico purchased $17.5 billion in goods from California last year.

Under the previous governor of California, Pete Wilson, relations with Mexico were strained over the issue of immigration. Governor Wilson supported an initiative, passed by the voters in 1994, that barred most state social services to illegal immigrants. The courts later nullified major parts of that law, but the bitterness it generated helped Gray Davis win a large percentage of the Hispanic vote.

Since taking office, Governor Davis has visited Mexico four times and has pledged to meet twice each year with President Fox in an effort to further strengthen ties.